I think about China almost every night. I have for a long time, and not at all for the reasons a lot of other people are thinking about China right now.
I have what some people would categorise as an unnaturally firm mattress. It’s from the Futon company and it’s incredible. I never would have known that I was a Firm Mattress Person. I spent most of the past decade pre-big-overland-trip happily sleeping on a squishy IKEA mattress. But I have a very clear memory of waking up in my hostel bed in Beijing thinking ‘my god, this is the most comfortable mattress I have ever slept on.’ It was hard as a rock.
When I came back to the UK, I somehow by chance ended up on an equally firm mattress in the flat I was sharing with Mim. So I bought the same kind when I moved into my flat, and now I don’t want to sleep on anything else. Nearly every night I think of that perfect hostel bed with it’s slightly larger than twin size and full curtain around it. It was just one of many things in China that surprised and delighted me.
China was the most difficult country for me. Of all the places I went, the culture was so wildly different and removed from what I was used to, I never quite knew what was going on. I could spend ages there and I don’t think I’d work it out. But that’s kind of what made it great. I have regularly over the past 4 years, whenever the subject of China or Chinese food comes up, dreamily stated, ‘I really need to go back there, if only to eat’.
This piece on Wuhan’s defining dish reminded me of all the impeccable food I had at tiny restaurants and stalls all over China. Really simple stuff, but the tastiest you’ll ever have. A few people asked me how I wasn’t sick of eating noodles for breakfast. People: Please understand that I could NEVER be sick of eating noodles at any time of the day, especially when they are that delicious.
China is also where I learned that the Asian Lindy Hop scene is the friendliest, most welcoming I have yet to encounter. People are just so excited you’re there to dance with them, and it doesn’t matter in any way if you don’t share a verbal language.
When I went to dance in Shanghai, Orchid, the local organiser, spotted me, introduced herself, and practically bent over backwards to make sure I was enjoying myself. She introduced me to people left and right and made sure I wasn’t sitting out if I didn’t want to be. I also danced in Beijing at a smaller but equally welcoming night. Orchid actually maintains the list I used to find these nights.
Before the rest of the world got locked down and everyone was doing it, I saw the videos on Yehoodi of all the Chinese Lindy Hoppers rocking out at home in their pajamas and it reminded me how at home the Chinese scene made me feel when I was so far from what I knew.
I miss dancing a lot right now, but I have no desire to actually dance. It’s a bit of a weird feeling. Solo jazz is great, but for me, Lindy is a lot about the people and the connection, so doing it alone just isn’t something I can handle at the moment.
I miss travel too, of course. Doesn’t seem we’ll be doing much of that anytime soon either. I had been hoping to write more about Georgia. And I will eventually. But since I just realised I have a few hours left to meet my arbitrary goal of ‘doing better than I did last year’ on the writing front, rather than giving in to the pool of molasses I feel I’ve been in lately when it comes to motivation, I thought I’d go for a small, imperfectly formed victory. That seems like a better arbitrary goal right now.